With more than 300,000 types of beetles already named by taxonomists, it’s nearly impossible to list all of the species in the world. And with untold beetle types yet to be discovered, it’s safe to say that you don’t need to be able to identify every different species of beetle in the world. But you do need to be able to identify a beetle problem the second you have one.
Beetle identification in general
It’s important to note what separates beetles from other insects, so you can be certain beetles are actually your issue, and not another pest. Beetles are different from every other winged insect because beetles have one pair of wings that are fully thickened, hardened and protective. Some winged insects (called ‟true bugs”) have partially hardened and thickened wings, but those wings are translucent – beetle wings aren’t.
The beetle’s hard exterior wings are what led to the low-tech ‟is this a beetle?” test of yesteryear, which simply required stepping on the bug. If it crunched, it was a beetle. It’s much more humane to know what to look for. In addition to their wings, beetles can also be discerned from true bugs by their mouthparts. Beetles’ mouths are made for chewing, while true bugs’ mouths are made for piercing skin and sucking, e.g., bed bugs and cicadas.
Common species of beetles
Curculionidae, the largest family of beetles, are better known as weevils. The boll weevil is notorious for ravaging the cotton production industry in the 1920s, and still causes millions in yearly losses to this day. There are quite a few large families of beetles that account for common sightings. These include Chrysomelidae (leaf beetles), Cerambycidae (Longhorned beetles), Scarabaeidae (scarab beetles) and Carabidae (ground beetles).
There are numerous differences between beetle species – far too many to go through on a case-by-case basis, even for the most common ones. However, size, shape, color, habitat and diet are easy distinctions to make between the species.
How beetle species differ in appearance
Some beetles can grow several inches long, like the rare titan beetle, which can reach 7 inches in length. Others, like the featherwing beetle, are so tiny that they can only produce one egg at a time. Some beetles are extremely colorful and have intricate patterns, such as scarab beetles. Others, like the common black ground beetle, are solid black.
Some beetles are shaped like violins, while others have bodies designed for swimming. Longhorned beetles have extremely long antennae, which cause some to mistake them for cockroaches. There are so many different appearances, you couldn’t describe beetles as a whole without describing the individual species. Learn more about tips of beetle identification.
Where beetles live
The habitats of beetles also differ by species. Many types live underneath leaves, rocks and debris. This includes the tiger beetle, which runs so fast that it can blind itself as it aggressively hunts down prey. Aquatic beetles live in and around fresh water, including the whirligig and the diving beetle. Leaf beetles prefer to live around vegetation, while the invasive Asian longhorned beetle presents a deadly threat to the trees it infests.
The fogstand beetle lives in the desert, the hide beetle makes its home around dead organic matter it buries, mountain pine beetles live in the mountains – beetles live almost everywhere in the world. In fact, some beetles might even be living in your home right now.
What different types of beetles eat
Different beetle species also have different diets. Some beetles eat plants, while others feast on dead animal meat. Some beetles are parasitic while others hunt soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars and grubs. The dung beetle eats exactly what its name suggests. The lady beetle (better known as a ladybug) feeds off of lice-sized aphids on plants, keeping human vegetation safe from these types of destructive insects.
But then there are beetle species like the carpet beetle, which can invade your home and eat through your upholstery, clothing and more. Others, like the cigarette and drugstore beetles, can wreak havoc on your pantry. Wood boring beetles, which are common feeders of construction timber and decaying trees, are especially good at causing damage.
No matter what types of beetles are in your home, they don’t belong there. Call Terminix® and get them out.